Vigo County School Corp. students to receive armed-intruder training

Nov. 25—Starting Monday, the Vigo County School Corp. will begin providing middle and high school students with training officials hope they never have to use.

ALICE training, an acronym for alert, lock-down, inform, counter and evacuate, will provide students with strategies to use in the event of an emergency involving an armed intruder entering the building.

School staff have already received ALICE training.

"The use of the ALICE techniques is a monumental shift from our traditional protocol of lockdown, because they give students and staff the option to self-evacuate and teaches them to counter the attack, if necessary," said Tom Balitewicz, VCSC director of student services, during a recent school board meeting.

The strategies, developed by professionals in the school safety field, are designed to be age appropriate for students, he said.

Balitewicz anticipated that training at the elementary level will begin after winter break.

Parents can read more about ALICE at

"We understand the seriousness and the gravity that this type of training can bring to a school, but at this time, we must prepare our students for the possibility of an armed intruder in one of our buildings," Balitewicz told the board.

The district is sensitive to students that have experienced past trauma "and want to be careful as we train those students in the ALICE strategies," he told the board. During training with students, the district will have school counselors present to assist students who may feel uncomfortable or uneasy with the material.

It will take about two weeks to train all secondary students.

First, students will watch a short video provided by ALICE. Then, trained professionals will lead a discussion with students and the school principal on the most crucial concepts included in ALICE.

"Students, staff, parents and the school administration must be consistent with our message about the seriousness and importance of this training," Balitewicz said.

VCSC has sent parents an email about the training.

In September, the district started an aggressive training schedule to teach staff how to use the ALICE strategies. Through two sessions, totaling four hours, staff were trained on how to evacuate appropriately, shelter in place, and counter if necessary if an armed intruder enters a building.

After the Nov. 14 board meeting, Balitewicz answered reporters' questions about ALICE training for students.

"I think you have to be very careful and it has to be age appropriate. It has to be leveled to those students," he said. "We have to take into account past trauma of students and be very careful. Any little thing can trigger something with a student that has past trauma. So we want to think about that very carefully as we go into it. "

As for future training with elementary students, discussions have been underway with principals "trying to decide what elements (of ALICE training) we want to take to those students," he said.

Student training, which is in-person, does not necessarily involve role playing, he said.

Students will watch a video and then trainers "will take them through probably the most critical points of ALICE. You don't want to really over share with those students. We want to take the most basic concepts so they understand and can transfer those to a situation" that might occur, Balitewicz said.

The training for students will involve one session, Balitewicz said.

Earlier this year, officials said that the cost to VCSC for the ALICE training program is $40,000.

Parent Rose Downs, who has children in grades 6 and 9, is not for or against the ALICE training.

"I just see the need for this money to be spent in ways that could better benefit the students, teachers and staff of the VCSC," she said. "Let's work on the VCSC response to mental health. Let's better train teachers and staff to respond to the mental health needs of the students."

The school corporation and the community as a whole lack the mental health resources necessary for both children and adults, Downs said. "In addition to stricter gun regulations, I feel that an increase in mental health resources would go a long way in helping students and teachers feel safe."

Cetta DePaolo, whose child is in middle school, said she's not convinced ALICE training will keep students and staff any safer, "and I worry about the mental health effects on everyone involved, but especially our kids. I am sad that our society has come to this — that this is how we live now."

In August, Shawn Keen, Terre Haute police chief who has provided ALICE Training for the past four years outside of his duties as chief, explained the program to the school board and why he is so passionate about it.

"Traditionally, what we've seen is a reliance on lockdowns in classrooms. It doesn't account for other options, and that's what ALICE does," he said at the time.

Use of ALICE Training is taught at schools across the country, Keen said.

ALICE training for students is age appropriate. For example, ALICE does not teach "counters" for children in grades K-5 because they are too young and too small, he said.

But in secondary schools, if an active shooter is getting into a classroom, ALICE teaches to "counter," Keen explained.

"We don't huddle together in a room. We don't make ourselves a single target. We spread out in that room," he said. A teacher might instruct students to take anything heavy and use it.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue